Last weekend marked our official “Back to Church Sunday.” It’s always nice to come back home to church and the normal Sunday routine of worship, followed by food and football by the fireplace after spending the previous weekends away up north at the lake. I love coming back to the praise, the worship, the fellowship, the Word. Our church does such a wonderful job of teaching and serving, ministering to every age group in new and relevant ways all of the time. Altogether, it’s a blessing to belong to such a strong and faithful community!
Our church is currently in a series focused on John 15, “The Vine and the Branches.” Jesus taught, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5, NIV).” The heart of the message last week was that since we are “the branches,” either we are branches in the process of dying or we are branches in the process of living. So, which branch are we? Or maybe we’re wondering how we know which type of branch we are.
In addition to the sermons at church, I’ve been doing my daily bible study and devotional readings with the #SheReadsTruth community. We’re just about to wrap up our time in the Book of Galatians, and within this awesome letter written by the Apostle Paul, is this lovely verse that talks about fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).” Paul is teaching that when we “remain” in God, we produce fruit that brings about transformation in our lives, both internally (our character) and externally (our impact on the world around us).
Putting the two teachings together, I sense God asking me to examine my heart and my life to see what fruit I am producing because this determines what kind of branch I am. My desire is to live a good life, hence the name of this blog. But I don’t desire to live a good life just for my sake. Living a good life for me means living life out of the overflow of the Lord’s love for me. It means that I am living in “the Vine” and growing into “the branch” He desires me to be, producing “fruit” that makes a positive impact on the lives of those around me and the hopefully the world!
We see examples of “Life in the Vine” all around us. We read inspiring accounts on blogs and in books, we see “Make a Difference” stories on the news, and we watch movies depicting incredible acts of goodness and sacrifice – all of these making us want to be better people, the BEST people we can be. We may know people personally who are doing great things. For example, I have a girlfriend who just spent the week of her 28th birthday doing 28 Random Acts of Kindness, both for people she knows and for those she doesn’t know. Another girlfriend of mine is a missionary with a passion for ending Human Trafficking who is now serving in Amsterdam; before that she was in Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe, and then she traveled the United States this summer working with other churches and communities to “Create Justice” in their pockets of the world. These are just two examples, but they are AMAZING examples. This is the GOOD LIFE.
The best and most encouraging part about all of this is that each one of us has the capacity to do something remarkable for God. He blesses each of us with our own unique set of spiritual gifts and talents and gives us the grace to put those into action for His good. For some it may mean going across the ocean or the country, for others it might be in their city or neighborhood, and for others it might be right in their church or home. How great that we’re not all called to the same thing and in the same way.
Before closing this lesson in the Book of John, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:16-17, NIV).” We are branches born to live and grow in Him, letting that abiding relationship produce much good in our lives and the lives of others.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. … If you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who He is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples (John 15:5, 7-8, The Message).”
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (Galatians 5:22-23, The Message).”
“Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God (Philippians 2:15, The Message).”
I want to be a living branch. I want to be producing more fruit. I want life in the Vine.